White Sox

'Strange' setting awaits as White Sox, Orioles play in empty park


'Strange' setting awaits as White Sox, Orioles play in empty park

BALTIMORE -- The White Sox and Baltimore Orioles will make major league history on Wednesday afternoon when they play in front of a closed stadium.

But at this point, that’s all White Sox players and coaches know about what to expect when they take the field at 2:05 p.m. EST with nobody else inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards aside from media, scouts and team officials.

Their three-game series halted for two days because of Monday’s citywide unrest, the White Sox and Orioles are set to play for the first time this week with one caveat -- they’ll do it front of 45,971 empty seats. The silent venue is just another twist on what has been a surreal and somewhat scary week for the White Sox, who head to Minneapolis to open a four-game series Thursday.

[MORE: Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox]

“I don’t think anyone is prepared to play in this atmosphere or not,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s going to be strange. There’s no way around it. For us the focus is to go out and play baseball. But it’s going to be strange, for sure.”

Since word came down on Tuesday afternoon that the series would resume on Wednesday, several players have suggested the experience would be akin to spring training B games and similar minor league experiences. But those games take place on backfields at major league training facilities where a few dozen fans can sit on aluminum benches and not in one of Major League Baseball’s most pristine parks.

Though MSNBC reported early Wednesday that the Orioles plan to run their regular in-game operations, including walkup music and players announced as they hit as well as the National Anthem -- the team isn’t commenting on the process, a spokesperson said.

“I don’t think the strangeness has set in right now,” infielder Gordon Beckham said. “I’ve never played in a big league stadium that was empty. The closest I came was at the end of the season in Cleveland when there was like 1,000 people there. It’ll be interesting. We’ve talked about possibly doing some cheering without any noise just to, kind of, add to it. If somebody gets a hit, give them (a silent clap) without saying anything to kind of add to the ambiance. So we’ll see.”

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Adam Eaton was asked about the cues crowds provide on how hard a ball has been hit or if a pitch gets past the catcher. He expects that to be an added element to the uniqueness of the affair.

“Hearing is huge for an outfielder,” Eaton said. “You hear balls in the gap, how hard it’s hit, how weakly it’s hit. You know if a ball gets by the catcher, if a guy is stealing, you can hear that all from the crowd. So it is going to be different, but we’ve done it before when we were in the minor leagues and we’ll have to bring those senses back and really pay attention.”

Without a crowd, players expect to hear broadcasters, who are situated about 180 feet behind home plate. They’ll be able to hear each other, including third-base coaches shouting instructions at players. And there will be an absence of hecklers from the stands, too.

“It will be a different feeling,” designated hitter Adam LaRoche said. “You get used to fans, whether it’s 5,000 or 50,000, you get used to that. Anytime you do something you’re not used to or something that’s a little odd it’s going to be different.”

The next Mark Buehrle? Maybe Dallas Keuchel is best bet for White Sox in free agency

The next Mark Buehrle? Maybe Dallas Keuchel is best bet for White Sox in free agency

SAN DIEGO — We've talked a lot about Madison Bumgarner. We've wondered why the White Sox aren't more heavily linked to Gerrit Cole. We watched as they made the high bid for Zack Wheeler, only for him to take less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Maybe the best answer for the White Sox starting-pitching problem is someone else entirely. Maybe it's the next Mark Buehrle.

That's a comp that ought to get White Sox fans excited. After all Buehrle is one of the biggest icons in franchise history, a tremendous pitcher, defender and World Series winner. Well, Dallas Keuchel fits those descriptions, too, and it led to one bold prediction from one of the most plugged-in people in the game as the Winter Meetings got started Monday.

"My prediction is — not sourced reporting, this is a prediction — that Dallas Keuchel is a White Sock (by the end of the Winter Meetings)," MLB.com's Jon Morosi said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "He reminds me — his ability to field the position, lefty — there’s a little Buehrle there with Keuchel. I think that he fits, and I would hope that’s part of the White Sox sales pitch to him.

"I look at Buehrle and Keuchel as being similar pitchers, both athletic. There’s something about Keuchel pitching in that uniform that looks right to me."

OK, so maybe it's less of a comp and more of a hunch, but indeed there are similarities between the two. They're both four-time Gold Glove winners. They both won a World Series, Buehrle with the White Sox in 2005 and Keuchel with the Houston Astros in 2017. They're both left-handed, something that the White Sox could use right now to balance out their right-handed heavy rotation.

Perhaps most importantly for the White Sox, Keuchel is presently available. He's one of three oft-discussed mid-tier free-agent pitchers, along with Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who could be on the White Sox radar in the wake of Wheeler's decision to pitch in Philly. Rick Hahn's front office showed with its reported high bid for Wheeler that it's willing to spend big to add to the rotation. Perhaps the gargantuan sum speculated to go to Cole is a tad outside the realm of possibility — for many more teams than just the White Sox — but Keuchel could be the guy the team's been trying to find to pair with Lucas Giolito at the top of the rotation.

Keuchel has the experience of going through a rebuild and coming out the other end a world champion, helpful in telling these young White Sox how to get it done. He's done something Buehrle never did: capture a Cy Young Award, which he won in 2015. More recently, he helped lead the Atlanta Braves to an NL East championship, posting a 3.75 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 112.2 innings over 19 starts in 2019.

Most importantly, perhaps, Keuchel would provide stability and reliability in a rotation that, while talented, has plenty of question marks. Will Giolito's transformation be permanent? Will Michael Kopech be the same flamethrower he was prior to Tommy John surgery? Will Dylan Cease shake off a rocky first taste of the big leagues? Will Reynaldo Lopez find some consistency? Will Carlos Rodon be able to contribute much in 2020?

Keuchel comes with far fewer question marks, and hearing his name next to Buehrle's should give White Sox fans a clearer picture of what he could bring to the South Side.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: MLB.com's Jon Morosi joins to discuss Gerrit Cole and the Sox meaning business this winter


White Sox Talk Podcast: MLB.com's Jon Morosi joins to discuss Gerrit Cole and the Sox meaning business this winter

Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber are at the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi joins them to discuss the latest on Gerrit Cole (0:30) and the White Sox meaning business this winter (3:00). Plus, Jon says who he thinks is more likely to land in the Sox outfield: Marcell Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanos? (5:00)

When all is said and done, what will the White Sox do this week? The four guys give their predictions. Morosi expects a big name, free-agent starter to come to the South Side. (12:00)

Chuck, Guff and Vinnie then discuss what is fact and fiction about Marcell Ozuna (18:00) and have more of the rumors from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast